Monday, March 30, 2015

Exercise can be a part of fibromyalgia healing; plus healthy frosty ice cream

Running the Race to Robie Creek in 2004, pre-fibromyalgia
Never say "I'll never be able to do that again" because I have fibromyalgia. I used to say that all the time in the darkest days of my illness. Now, I'm having to "eat my words."

You see I'm signed up to do the 13.1-mile Race to Robie Creek, Saturday, April 18. I used to do the Race to Robie Creek every spring pre-fibromyalgia.The last time I ran it was April 17, 2004, with my husband, pictured above.

Then, my world began unraveling as the symptoms of fibromyalgia took hold of my life. At the time, I was convinced I'd never do things again that were my passion, like hiking, snowshoeing, backpacking and definitely, not running. I was having trouble just standing and walking.

Now, my belief is you can do whatever you set your mind to do as long as you realize you may have to make some modifications. As an example, start walking short distances every day. Never go beyond that "feel good feeling." If you do it right, there's nothing that exercise can't benefit.

These days, I still don't run except for a little speed walking or run walking. I do ride my bike; go hiking, snowshoeing and backpacking. I've had to make some modification to do these things. I definitely don't go at race pace. I do these activities at a pace that feels good.  I go shorter distances. I do what feels good on a given day. Since fibromyalgia muscles tend to stay contracted, I spend a lot of time stretching after exercising.

My last T-shirt from the Race to Robie Creek

For a decade plus, I haven't even considered participating in Robie Creek. It's billed as the toughest half-marathon in the Northwest. Fibromyalgia has prevented me from running, something I used to enjoy. This winter, a close friend said, "Why don't we do the Race to Robie Creek?" I thought she was kidding but she wasn't.

She has done the race almost every year for the past 17 despite her own health problems. I kind of laughed and shrugged it off. But soon, it was time to register which is no easy thing because all the race spots are usually taken in less than one hour.

She was successful in registering herself because her computer works faster than mine. I didn't get a spot but entered for a chance to win one in a drawing. I never win anything so quickly forgot about it. Surprise, surprise. Last week, I was notified I had won a spot.

Well, here's the part where I have to "eat my words" about never running again. Actually, I don't plan on running. I'll be walking, another modification because of fibromyalgia. I might have to speed walk a little here and there in order to complete the event in about four hours.

So, is exercise good for individuals with fibromyalgia? Yes, I believe it should be part of your healing. Movement/exercise can make just about any health problem better because you're getting oxygen;  preventing muscles from atrophying; getting Vitamin D; and helping alleviate depression.

Admittedly, you're probably going to need to get your sleep problems, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems and gut issues on the road to mending before you feel like exercising a lot. But any little bit you do can help as long as you stick with this rule: never go beyond the "feel good" feeling."

I admit I have always been an avid exerciser. If I couldn't exercise, I got depressed. I started making modifications so I could keep on going. But exercise still hurt until I found this program: Classical Stretch has been on PBS for 15 years so check your listings to see when it's on in your area.

I like it because Miranda Esmonde-White leads you through exercises that help rebalance your body, increase mobility, and keep your joints healthy and pain-fee. It's not difficult, last about 23 minutes, and is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

 Give me a healthy ice cream frosty after exercise.
And pretty soon you'll see me behaving like Nika (red malamute on right) here who has finished her food and is trying to take everyone's food.

Frozen milk ice cubes
 The frosty making process is easy.
The finished product
 You need frozen milk ice cubes (about 1 cup of your favorite milk beverage), 1/2 cup of yogurt of your choice (lactose free or low lactose, no sugar), 1/4 tsp.powdered stevia, 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract and pinch of salt.
 Blend up a storm in your vitamix or other heavy-duty blender. You may have to tap it down a bit. Pretty soon, you'll have a delicious frosty.
Now you can see why I'd fight like Nika for seconds.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My new found sleep and how it's eased my fibro pain; plus chocolate chip zucchini mini-loaf

Misha strikes another relaxation pose.

Can you believe I am finally sleeping like Misha (our husky pictured above who is known for being a relaxation specialist)? Misha also has penned a book, entitled Misha’s Ultimate Guide to Relaxation. P.S. If you would like a free copy of Misha’s book on relaxation, send me an e-mail and I’ll send you an electronic copy.

How did this phenomenon happen that I now can enjoy sleep like Misha? If you are a fibromyalgia sufferer, you already know that sleep is a precious commodity. For me, sleep grew even more elusive after I suffered a fractured wrist and subsequent surgery in late fall.

Pre-accident, my sleep was far from perfect. Post-accident, sleep was as elusive as searching for water in the Sahara Desert. Everything that helped before (e.g. my Sleep Number bed, Vitamin B supplements, exercise, relaxation techniques) did nothing. Read more in this post:

What has made the difference? My healthcare practitioner recommended a natural sleep aid, called Kavinace-Ultra-PM. As a fibro sufferer, I am always looking for safe and natural ways to get better sleep and ease my fibromyalgia pain.
What is Kavinace Ultra PM?

It is a fairly new sleep formula from NeuroScience, Inc. I was told it contained melatonin and trypotophan. I joked I was going to get the same effect as you have after eating a hearty portion of turkey as part of a Thanksgiving meal.

But it wasn’t a joke. I actually fell asleep within 5-10 minutes of taking one Kavinace Ultra PM capsule. I have been taking Kavinace every night for approximately six weeks with the same results each time even when I traveled away from home and slept in a different bed. 

 I was hoping for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep but I’m overjoyed waking up just once during the night.  I usually wake up after 2-3 hours of sleep but am able to fall fast asleep right away. 

When I wake up in the a.m., I am a little groggy but it quickly passes. To me, grogginess is a phenomenon I haven’t experienced in decades. Grogginess is the most common side-effect associated with Kavinace Ultra PM, and some individuals have reported dependency on Kavinace Ultra PM.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, mini loaf

Being able to sleep soundly is the best gift I’ve ever received. The more consecutive days of sound sleep I get, the better I feel overall.

I’ve been feeling so much better I really felt like celebrating the arrival of the first day of spring with a special treat---chocolate chip zucchini bread, mini loaf.
Here is what you need:

¼ cup grated zucchini
2 T. almond butter
1 T. almond flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 organic egg
½ tsp. raw vanilla powder or vanilla extract (alcohol free)
Pinch of sea salt
½ tsp. powdered pure stevia powder
1 T. homemade chocolate chips (recipe here:

Here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini-loaf pan with parchment paper.  Grate the zucchini in your food processor. Add all the other ingredients except for chocolate chips. Blend until it forms a dough.
Spoon the dough into the mini-loaf pan. Bake about 10-12 minutes (check halfway through). Remove from the oven. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Allow them to melt. 

Once the bread has cooled somewhat, slice off a piece and celebrate the arrival of spring, and in my case, my great sleep for a change.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

IBS plus fibromyalgia equals vitamin deficiencies; get your calcium

Would you pay $8 for something called Juce that was billed as cold-pressed organic juice but really was Fun Dip mixed with water? You would think we could tell the difference but not everyone can as you can see in the Jimmy Kimmel video link above. Many consumers rely on labeling to help them choose healthy foods over less healthy ones. But sometimes we get duped.

The same can be said of health care. Sometimes we get duped. I recently read that doctors have been prescribing CT scans (fancy x rays that give 3-D images) when patients come in with chest pain. These scans are no better than traditional tests, cost more and expose patients to the amount of radiation in 500-700 regular X rays. Doctors have used these scans for a decade without knowing whether they were better than traditional tests. They definitely didn't explain to patients how much radiation exposure they were getting.

In the past,  I have relied on my health care practitioners to give me the best information possible on my health problems. If they missed something, I excused them by saying they were overworked or busy. But I'm having a hard time excusing them for missing that individuals with IBS probably also suffer from malabsorption of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D and calcium.

It seems obvious that if you are having trouble digesting your food, you probably aren't getting what your body needs.  Unfortunately, there are many health conditions linked to IBS and malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Individuals with fibromyalgia often have many vitamin deficiences and of course, IBS. 

Recently, when I fractured my wrist in a bike accident, I was told that I may be suffering from low bone density. I was upset by this news but even more upset (okay, angry) when I found out that individuals with IBS or other gut problems have a significant increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. In another study, IBS patients had lower bone mineral density values and higher bone loss than healthy volunteers.

Why wasn't I told about this link before I fractured my wrist? Sure, I might have broken my wrist anyway. But at least, I could have started taking something to build my bones sooner.

IBS plus fibromyalgia equals vitamin deficiencies. That's why these days I take lots of vitamin supplements even though I eat a healthy diet, including 3+ servings of calcium-rich (lactose-free) yogurt and kefir every day.

Here's one way to build your bones. Carry a backpack and pull a sled through the snow to a yurt for an overnight trip.

The Yurt
Here's another way to add to your calcium intake for the day. Try a Shamrock Shake for St. Patrick's Day.
Low fermentation Shamrock Shake
Here's what you need FOR 2-3 SERVINGS:

 2-3 cups of plain yogurt (I make my own lactose-free)
stevia, to taste
pinch of salt
1/4 cup fresh spinach
1 bag of peppermint tea
1/2 cup milk of choice
2 T. water
1 T. Great Lakes gelatin
As an option: use 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract and 1/2 cup milk of choice and omit the tea bag

Here's what you do:

Heat 1/2 cup of milk of your choice until hot, not boiling. Divide the milk between two cups as shown above. Place your peppermint tea bag in one cup and allow it to steep. To the other cup, add gelatin dissolved in 2 T. cold water. Stir to mix and allow to set until somewhat firm. Now, mix everything together in a high-speed blender. Taste and adjust sweetener. Add more peppermint if desired.

Enjoy a serving of your Shamrock Shake.

Use the rest to make Shamrock Frozen Yogurt. Freeze the remainder in your ice cream freezer according to directions. Store in the freezer to enjoy for another serving of calcium.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Carbs under the microscope plus low carb moon pie

The Sawtooth Mountain Range
I recently enjoyed a winter hiking trip to the Sawtooth Wilderness Area. Stanley, Idaho, population 63, is nestled at the base of this awesome mountain range. It wasn't exactly a typical late February for this normally coldest location in the state. This year's temps were in the mid-30s with sunny skies. Snow was marginal. We took snowshoes but never used them because you could hike easily without them.

Nothing has been typical this winter as I have been recovering from a fractured wrist and associated fibro and stomach flare-ups. Fortunately, I have gotten a lot of those problems under control "again"and could enjoy lots of great hiking with the snow pups.

Nika, Bailey and Misha frolick in the snow
My trials and tribulations with my resurgence of fibro this winter have taught me to never take anything for granted. An accident like mine or an illness can throw anyone for a loop but especially if you have a chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia. But don't throw in the towel. Pretty soon, you'll be out enjoying the things you love.

Because fibro sufferers have messed up guts, you need to put carbs under the microscope. (I wrote about this earlier in this post: We often don't have the digestive enzymes needed to deal with these guys. And often, we have bacterial overgrowth in the digestive system. Because of this, it's not just calories in, calories out; or eat lots of organic, whole foods. It's way more complicated.

I have relied heavily on my digestive enzymes and HCL supplements but also on the principles of counting the amount and kinds of natural sugar in all carbohydrates. The book, Fast Tract Digestion, by Norman Robillard, outlines a diet that encourages you to eat carbs low in fermentation potential.

Recently, I read a similar book, The Skinny Gut Diet, by Brenda Watson. The similarity is that you must count the amount of natural and types of sugar in all carbs. Watson's eating plan is less restrictive, helps balance out gut bacteria, control IBS symptoms and promote healthy weight loss.  It is not suitable for me because I have bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine not just the large intestine.

Under Watson's plan, you must stay within 8-10 teaspoons of sugar (natural, not added) daily while in the GET LEAN PHASE. You figure your teaspoons of sugar by using this formula: Total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber divided by 5 equals teaspoons of sugar. For instance, quinoa has about 34 grams of carbohydrates in a serving minus approx. 4 grams of fiber equals 6 teaspoons of sugar. Answer: no, you cannot eat this.

Low FP "moon pie"
On Robillard's plan, you count fermentation potential (FP) of carbs which means how fast your system can process it. His formula is more complicated. You need to know the serving size, total amount of net carbs (NC), dietary fiber (DF) and sugar alcohols (SA) and the glycemic index (GI) for a food. The formula is: FP equals 100 minus GI times NC plus DF plus SA divided by 100. But you can use the resources in his book to help you keep your total fermentation potential around 25.

 I thought it would be interesting to compare a recipe on Watson's plan versus Robillard's plan. I packed a "Low FP" moon pie along on my hikes while in the Sawtooths. It has ingredients that normally need refrigeration but it was cold enough I didn't worry.

You need for three moon pies:

1 organic egg
1 T. organic cocoa powder
1 T. farmer's cheese (lactose free)
1/2 T. seed or nut butter of your choice
Note: you can make this dairy-free by omitting the farmer's cheese and using 3 T. of seed or nut butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. raw vanilla powder or alcohol-free vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 T. plain yogurt of your choice per pie
1 tsp. additional seed or nut butter per pie


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spritz the paper with olive oil. Mix the ingredients for the moon pies in a small bowl. Stir until well blended. Divide the mixture into six discs on the parchment paper. Bake about 10-12 minutes. Allow to rest and cool before filling with your choice of seed or nut butter and yogurt.

Moon pie ready to be packed in your lunch or backpack
FP of one moon pie is approximately 4 depending on type of yogurt used. Teaspoons of sugar on Skinny Gut plan is 2-3 depending again on type of yogurt used (mainly whether it is lactose free or not).

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